July, 2012

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Fifteen is the new thirty!

    Do you know what? I've completely forgotten what it's like to be fifteen all over again! This week, we've been joined by Ellen and Dylan who are on work experience from school. They have certainly made me feel old! But, they have both been lovely and we have hopefully given them a flavour of what it's like working for a conservation organisation. They are definitely our conservationists of the future!

    We asked them if they would write us a brief account on their time at RSPB so far and a trip out to our RSPB nature reserve, Strumpshaw Fen. Here are their accounts.

    Ellen Kibble- aged 15

    As a work experience student about to spend two weeks at the RSPB office in Norwich, I had a few misconceptions about the organisation’s work. I was also slightly apprehensive at the suggestion that I give up a Saturday -a whole Saturday!- to go and visit one of the RSPB reserves in Norfolk, Strumpshaw Fen.

    I have a confession to make: I am not an avid “birder”. I can’t really identify even common birds or plants. But, as soon as I stepped out of the car door and across the railway tracks, into a reception hide, I was made to feel very welcome by the staff and other nature lovers.

    I didn’t know what to expect of the meadow walk I had been scheduled to go on, but enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The warden gave us a lot of information about the plants we were surrounded by; some even I could recognise, but many species were rare. The most notable of these were the six species of orchid spattered around the meadow, which several people on the walk had come specifically to see. These included marsh, narrow-leaved, and common spotted. I could appreciate their beauty, even if I couldn’t tell them apart!

    Spending the afternoon in the Reception Hide was not as thrilling, but again, I’d been expecting worse! We spent most of the afternoon bird watching, exclaiming over the majestic marsh harriers. As well as common and black-headed gulls and mallards in the pond, we saw a stubborn cormorant. It stood on a post for so long that when it dived off to fish, I nearly had a heart attack! There were also the occasional kingfisher sightings, and though I unfortunately missed it, there was also an otter spotted nearby.

    What none of us were expecting, however, was the striking swallowtail butterfly that made an appearance, just as I had lost concentration and begun to doodle in my notebook. We all hung out of the hide windows to watch it disappear into the reeds. That was the highlight of my day, although the delicious hot chocolate in the hide came a close second!

    If you are in the area, I would recommend visiting Strumpshaw fen. If you are a “Bird-nerd” or just an amateur enthusiast, there will be something for you to enjoy! If you plan on using the meadow route, like us, bring wellies, though. I am told it is wet there all year round, and not just because of the recent awful weather! (My walking boots were not as waterproof as I had hoped, and I spent the afternoon with slightly soggy socks.)

    Dylan West - aged 15

    I am just going introduce my self before I start, I am Dylan and I was 15 last Wednesday on the 11 of July.

     As you will hopefully tell, I have a interest in wildlife. So, when I was choosing my work experience, I wanted to choose something to do with helping nature. I chose Thornham Walks and the RSPB because I wanted to get different perspectives on helping wildlife both in the office and actually being outdoors.

    My first day was not the typical ‘day in the office’ and I have to admit, initially I was not best pleased at getting up at about 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning!

    I arrived a Strumpshaw fen or ‘Strumpy’ (a nickname used by the RSPB) and I was welcomed by Jane Delaney with an RSPB T-shirt and an oversized fleece, which thankfully spent most of the time stuffed in my bag. In the reception hide, I managed to catch a glimpse at some cormorants, marsh harriers and a black-headed gull while I waited for a middle aged man with a big beard named Alastair. Once we met him we started on our walk.

     We started walking through the woodland and managed to hear the call of a chiffchaff. After the woods, the path opened out into a huge marsh. We then walked straight off the path and into the thick of the meadow where Alastair talked about the history of the reserev. The meadows actually used to be a large valley, which was filled-in throughout the years of glaciations with layers of peat and clay.

    Then we spent a while in the meadow looking at different species of plant life in the area. I was surprised by the amount of plant life here, including meadow thistle, flowered rush, common read, bottom grass, quaking grass, bent grass, bog bean... and this list goes on for another 30 variations of plant so I am not going to type all of them down! But that was not all we got to see, Alastair managed to capture some inverbrates, which we got nice close up views of like the common blue damsel fly, the large red damselfly, the blue-tailed damselfly. We also examined some frog bit and great water doc which are plants found in the pond. We crossed a bridge and continued up to a small hill on which  Alastair talked a bit more about the history of Strumpshaw Fen until we finally travelled back and sat in the Reception Hide for a few hours entertained by the different birds until we were allowed to go home.

    So goodbye and i hope this has inspired you all to take a trip to Strumpshaw fen.

     

  • No bat, yeah bat, no bat......

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Projects Officer

    At the RSPB, we are well known for our royal allegiance to birds.  And, whilst we think things with beaks are pretty marvellous, it’s less known that we also spend a great deal of time protecting, campaigning for, and creating space for all manner of other beastie.  

    And though I know this theoretically, it’s been working on The Lodge wind turbine project that has really driven it home to me; in fact, lately, it’s been driving me a bit batty!

    Before we can be confident that The Lodge is a suitable site for a turbine, we’ve had a great deal of survey work to do, and there’s more to come.

    After surveying bird populations in the area for years, we are confident that a turbine at The Lodge won’t result in any negative impacts on our sensitive feathered species.  But birds are not the only winged creatures that call The Lodge their home.  We also have bats hiding away in the nearby woodlands by day and careering around the reserve on the hunt for tasty moths and other insects as night falls.   And before we can even think about further planning for a turbine, we need to make sure that they will happily co-exist with our proposed green energy generator.

    We are now entering our third year of bat surveys, and things are suddenly getting more interesting, thanks to our new meteorological mast, constructed in Sandy Ridge this Tuesday.  As well as measuring wind speeds, this 70 m tall steel structure will, for the first time, allow us to monitor bat activity at the height of the proposed turbine blades.

    This will help us understand if a turbine is likely to impact upon some of our resident species, including common pipistrelle (drawing below), soprano pipistrelle and noctule.

    Drawing by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)

    And since the mast will be simultaneously measuring wind speeds and bat activity, it will allow us to do something a bit clever. By looking at both sets of data together, we will get an understanding of our furry friend’s behaviour at different times of year, in different wind speeds.

    This means that even if we do see our batty visitors regularly calling by the turbine site in search of an insect snack, at a particular time of the night, year, or in a specific wind speed, we may be able to turn the turbine off whilst they are in harm’s way.  Existing research suggests that this can often be in lower wind speeds, which would mean that switching the turbine off in these conditions wouldn’t significantly impact the amount of electricity that our turbine generates. 

    But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves....for now, we are just excited to be devoting attention to our resident bats, to ensure that we are as focused on their welfare as that of our feathered friends.

    Building a turbine is not a decision we will take lightly.  However, if we find our chosen site to be suitable, it is a step that we will be taking with great pride, and optimism for a future with lower carbon emissions and choc full of wildlife species safe from the impacts of climate change.  And we hope you agree that there is nothing batty about that.

    If you’d like to keep up-to-date with project progress, or want to know more about the project we’ll be keeping everyone posted on at www.rspb.org.uk/lodgewindturbine.

  • Rainforests in the East - Diary Post #1

    Blogger: Lili Kumar, Community Fundraising Assistant

    Hi Gena here for a quick update before I leave Lili to her rainforest post. Hopefully you will all have seen the information regarding the RSPB’s Together for Trees partnership with Tesco to raise money and awareness for tropical forest projects around the globe.

    As part of this work, Tesco’s are opening the doors of all their UK superstores and Extra stores for 2 days in September for a ‘Together for Trees’ bucket collection. In Eastern England alone we are looking for 800 volunteers to help us out by collecting money in 100 Tesco Stores on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 September, so this is the biggest project of this kind we have ever undertaken.

    To help us in this task and make sure we can make the most of this opportunity, we are delighted to be able to welcome Lili Kumar on board the good ship Community Fundraising! For the next 4 months Lili will be working with us to deliver over £15,000 towards rainforest projects – starting with a taste of her own rainforest experience...

     

    “There are 760 bends on the road to Pai, a small town situated in the Mae Hong Son (The City of Three Mists) province of northern Thailand. Word on the street in the city of Chiang Mai is that people take the terrifying bus ride at their own risk. Two days later, I am on the bus! The rollercoaster ride revelled scenery that grew more beautiful with every turn.  I began to feel myself relax, the higher we climbed the more stunning the misty green mountains became. Any fear was left far behind me by the time we arrived in the valley.

    Accommodation was found in a working rice field not far from the tiny town centre. The giant dorm had been built by the owner and his sister, complete with 20 bamboo bunk beds! The first sunset, and everyone after were spent in a giant tree house (our living room) over looking neat rice fields. Mountains rolled into each other as far as the eye could see and a pink glow filled the sky. Something told me there was no better place to spend Christmas...”

    To step up for nature. Join Together for Trees bucket collections in the East and help to save a rainforest – have a look here for more info.”

     

    Photo by Clare Kendall (rspb-images.com)